Carnegie Mellon University
May 17, 2011

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon's Silicon Valley Campus To Host Disaster Management Workshop and Emergency Vehicle Rally

New Technologies and Processes To Improve Communications During Disasters Will Be Explored

Contacts: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /
Sylvia Leong / 650-335-2808 /

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University's Silicon Valley campus, in conjunction with the California Fire Chiefs Association and the California Emergency Management Association, will host the second annual Disaster Management Initiative Workshop and Mobile Command Center Rally to showcase new technologies for improving mobile emergency communications May 22-23 in Mountain View, Calif.  The event is co-sponsored by the NASA Ames Research Center and will be held at the NASA Research Park, the site of CMU's Silicon Valley campus.

"The workshop is designed to explore and unveil new technologies and processes for improving disaster communication worldwide," said Martin Griss, director of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley. "Recent events, such as earthquakes, terrorist attacks, hurricanes and power outages have shown us that abrupt interruptions to our businesses and daily lives are not far away."

Carnegie Mellon researchers will join a cadre of firefighters, rescue workers, police, military experts and other emergency service operators to showcase and study the best practices for building resilient mobile disaster communications plans and systems. Because 85 percent of the world now communicates with cellphones or from other mobile devices and platforms, disaster managers are increasingly using social media to convey important emergency messages.

More than one million people were displaced worldwide last year as a result of natural disasters and ill-equipped disaster management plans, according to recent global disaster management reports.

An array of sophisticated self-powered satellite systems will be on display to show the importance of communications capabilities in remote areas where traditional communications infrastructure is unavailable. Specially designed rescue and emergency vehicles also will be on display during the two-day event.

Steve Ray, a distinguished fellow at CMU, will be running a "Plugfest" designed to measure the degree of interoperability among the emergency communications vehicles and with emergency operation centers. Results of the information exchange work will be recorded to provide a baseline set of measurements, answering the question: "What can be done right now, and where do we go next?"

Jeannie Stamberger, associate director of the DMI at CMU's Silicon Valley campus, will discuss her work with various field agencies and first responders that spans several continents.

From data mining to mapping and translation, Stamberger's team met the urgent needs of the Japan earthquake and tsunami victims earlier this year. The DMI team's work during the 9.0 Japan quake helped bridge the gap between unstructured social media and structured data.

"We're also going to explore the importance of amateur radio emergency communicators during our workshop to study the business, organizational and technical issues related to mobility in managing systems found in cellphones, home appliances, building infrastructures and disaster scenarios," said Griss, co-director of CMU's CyLab Mobility Research Center and the DMI.

Griss said because handheld devices are so ubiquitous, the demand for the growth and adoption of new technologies to manage data and streamline disaster emergency communications will be an ongoing goal of the 2011 workshop and rally.

"The California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) is excited to sponsor and support this year's combined CMU Disaster Management Initiative Workshop and California Mobile Command Center Rally. CalEMA has always been at the forefront of disaster management and response, and our collaboration with Carnegie Mellon truly integrates a full range of resources to serve the greater good," said CalEMA Acting Secretary Michael Dayton.

"Following on last year's very successful first disaster management workshop, I am very pleased to see the expansion of the number of emergency service organizations participating this year," said Robert Dolci, chief of the Protective Services Office at Ames. "Collaborative participation is the key to enhancing emergency management and disaster preparedness."

Steve Jordan, CEO of the National Disaster Resiliency Center (NDRC), says communications is the most critical component in disaster response and recovery efforts. "The NDRC looks forward to partnering with Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley and the Disaster Management Initiative (DMI) in developing solutions to this important issue," Jordan said.

For additional information about the DMI workshop and rally, see